Funders reiterate diversity commitment as Social Enterprise Support Fund reopens for applications

England’s social enterprises have just one week to apply for emergency grants of up to £300,000, as the second round of the Social Enterprise Support Fund opens today.

More than 500 applied for the first round of funding last month, which also gave applicants just seven days to submit a request. Around 180 social enterprises were successful, securing a total of £5.6m.

The Social Enterprise Support Fund is financed by The National Lottery Community Fund, and delivered by Big Issue Invest, The Key Fund, Resonance, the School for Social Entrepreneurs and UnLtd, with support from CAF Venturesome, the Young Foundation and Ashoka. It aims to help social enterprises adapt to Covid-19 demands and manage liquidity, and targets organisations supporting people at high health risk or facing increased social or economic struggles as a result of the pandemic.

Daniel Brewer, CEO of Resonance, called the response to the initial launch of the fund “humbling”, saying it proved the level of need among “so many wonderful social enterprises” for emergency financial help due to Covid-19.  


Diverse leaders

The consortium has committed to giving 30% of grants to applicants from minority backgrounds or with ‘lived experience’ – those who use their own first-hand experience of a social issue to create positive change. In the first round, the target was exceeded, although the consortium was not yet able to provide final figures on this.

Some 70% of Big Issue Invest’s approved funding has gone to what it calls “diversity-led businesses”,  according to CEO Danyal Sattar. “We are incredibly proud of this, as we recognise the fund needs to ensure it supports all leaders to respond to Covid-19 in their communities,” he said.

Mark Norbury, CEO at UnLtd, also said social entrepreneurs from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people, and older entrepreneurs were “really well-represented” in the first round of those applying to his organisation. “We hope to see even more applying as the next round opens this week.”

Among the round one grantees are Colorintech, which helps ethnic minorities to break into the technology industry; Gaydio, the UK’s only national LGBT+ community radio station; and Hollywell House Trust, which helps people with a disability or mental health issues into safe housing.

Katie Sherjan, CEO of Devon and Cornwall-based Hollywell Housing Trust, told Pioneers Post her organisation had received its grant of £45,000 yesterday – a much quicker turnaround from approval to receipt of funds than in normal processes, she said. The grant, provided via Resonance, will help fund additional resources needed to look after its approximately 70 tenants, many of whom are experiencing additional mental health problems since lockdown began. This required “considerably more staff time than we would normally commit to each tenant,” she said.

Sherjan said her organisation was not in financial crisis due to the pandemic – Hollywell also received a bank loan of £50,000, plus some funding from the Lloyds Bank Foundation – but that the Social Enterprise Support Fund grant was needed to “to get back to where we were” pre-Covid and to prevent a gap in provision that would “let tenants fall off a cliff.”



Sattar praised The National Lottery Community Fund for its “generous leadership” in funding the grants. “We could never have run a programme like this without them,” he said.

A third round will open on 10 September.

  • In other funding news, £4m of grant funding is now available to be used alongside the Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund. The grant pot is part of the wider £30m received by the Access Foundation from dormant bank accounts to create new blended finance for charities and social enterprises. RRLF applicants must still apply for a loan and may be approved for a loan without any grant award alongside it.

Applications for round two of the Social Enterprise Support Fund open today at 1pm, and close on Thursday 20 August. The fund is for social enterprises in England only, with an annual income of £25,000-£1.5m before Covid-19. For more information see

Header image: Tenants of Hollywell Housing Trust, a grantee of round one of the Social Enterprise Support Fund.